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Does Same-sex attraction exist within the animal kingdom?

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The earth is estimated to be home to over 8.7 million different species of animals, making it impossible for researchers and biologists to identify and list every single type. With parts of the ocean going as deep as 35 thousand feet and the Amazon rainforest covering 40% of South America, there are likely many more still to be discovered. Of the millions of species worldwide, do any of the known animals show gay behaviours or characteristics?



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People once believed that by identifying as gay or transgender, the person was either making a conscious choice or suffering from some type of mental illness. With studies and research into sexuality and gender identities, the world has since discovered that it was neither a choice nor a condition. Instead, there is evidence to support that non-traditional identities result from a chemical difference naturally occurring within those that identify as LGBTQ+. With greater understanding, the world has become more accepting, and much has improved for the community. Thankfully, many people have the freedom to be themselves and live and love whomever they wish.

Science has helped us become better at understanding human behaviours, especially concerning sexuality. However, at the same time, biologists and researchers have made exciting discoveries where certain species of animals also display same-sex behaviours. A finding that further supports the theory that being gay is not a choice and is not due to the person's environment.

It would likely take biologists over one thousand years to correctly identify and list all species of animals on the planet. Not only that but there would also probably be more animals discovered as a result of evolution and as we explore uncharted areas. With an estimated 8.7 million species, biologists have observed same-sex attractions and behaviours in over one thousand and five hundred different types of animals.

Some animals, such as fish, can change their gender; however, for this article, we will focus on animals unable to do so, so not sequential hermaphrodites, as they are also known. Animals that also show attraction to or mate with those of the same sex and from the same species, effectively gay animals. Let us now know look at the types of relationships within the animal kingdom.

BY LAND

The Land surface covers over 29% of the planet, with 24.6 million or 15.8 billion acres of habitable land. Home to 7.9 billion humans in 2020 and an estimated 6.5 million different species of land-living animals, the planet is brimming with life. The more scientists and biologists research animal behaviours and habits, from the largest land animal, the elephant, to the smallest, Kitti's hog-nosed bat, the more fascinating the discoveries.

Same-sex land-animal behaviours can typically be found amongst large herd animals; however, encounters have also been recorded within surprisingly more solitary species. Giraffes are known to engage in same-sex relationships and behaviours, typically male-male. There are high levels and frequencies of same-sex behaviours, higher than heterosexual relationships, typically starting with aggressive necking, followed by caressing one another.

Even apex predators are known to be more fluid sexually. Lions which are the second-largest feline globally, live and hunt amongst the grasslands and savannas of Africa. Both male and female lions are known to engage in same-sex relationships. Often, these types of relationships are part of a bonding ritual or system, lasting many days. The dominant male or female will initiate the activity by nuzzling and caressing, ultimately mounting the passive lion.

Large birds, such as Flamingos, sometimes form committed same-sex relationships, including travelling, living, raising their young, and engaging in sexual relationships. There are four species found throughout the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe. Flamingos get their distinct colour from their food, from tiny insects, crustaceans such as shrimp to blue-green algae. Flamingos are highly social birds within their colonies, known as pats, often containing populations of thousands.

Whether the Dwarf Chimpanzees, observed engaging in bisexual relationships or horses creating close bonds and sexual relationships with those from the same sex, not all animals are exclusively heterosexual. In reality, there are too many to list; however, a few notable mentions are the Black Bears, Grizzly Bears, Brown Bears and Polar Bears. Not only large mammals but also insects. Dragonflies inflict damage to females' heads during sex. Studies into mating rituals found that high percentages of male dragonflies had evidence of the same head injury, meaning that same-sex behaviours were commonplace. Dragonflies can be found living in every continent and country except Antarctica and are both agile fliers and effective predators.

BY SEA

Water makes up the majority of the planet's surface, covering an area of about 71%. Oceans and large bodies of water cover an area of 361.9 million square kilometres or 139.7 million square miles. The world's oceans are known to have an average depth of over 12,000 feet, and the deepest part is known as the Challenger Deep. Located in the western Pacific Ocean, the Challenger Deep goes down to depths of over 35 thousand feet. It is believed that the oceans are home to over 2.2 million species. Covering such a big area and where much of it has yet to be discovered, it is safe to assume many more undiscovered species live within the world's oceans.

Groups of Gray whales in the wild are known to engage in same-sex relationships and behaviours. Two or more male Gray whales will roll in the ocean to touch their bellies and genitals. Though technically not whales, Orca Whales, which are apex predators, hunt and feed on fish, seals, dolphins, whale calves and even adult whales. Marine biologists have discovered that Ocra Whales, also known as killer whales, will often engage in same-sex relationships. Orca Whales are also known as highly social and intelligent, forming groups known as pods. Their impressive hunting techniques and vocal behaviours are passed down through their pods, making them highly effective predators within the oceans. Closely related to killer whales, the dolphin has been observed exhibiting bisexual attributes. There have even been reports of Amazon Dolphins engaging in sexual activities in groups of three to five, mainly made up of young males.

Same-sex relationships and behaviours, typically male-male, have long been known about loveable penguins. There are recorded observations of same-sex penguin behaviours as early as 1911. Penguins live exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere and can be found in Angola, Antarctica, Argentina, Australia, Chile, Namibia, New Zealand and South Africa. Penguins feed on krill, fish, squid and other sea life, are highly social and breed in large colonies. Not only birds but many varieties of fish have been observed displaying same-sex behaviours. Fish such as Anglerfish, Salmon and the Amazon molly have exhibited homosexual behaviours.

Many gay animals, birds, reptiles, fish and insects that exhibit same-sex behaviours may only have been seen carrying out sexually related activities. However, some species, such as penguins and giraffes, are known to create close lifelong connections and bonds with their same-sex partners. Though it is difficult to understand what these animals think and feel, it does raise interesting questions, given that they are experiencing some form of attraction to other members of the same sex. Strengthening the argument that humans and animals alike are doing what is intuitive to them and they know to be true.

Even with many varieties and species of animals displaying same-sex behaviours, it does not impact their herds, pods or groups, or even their ecosystems. Many are still procreating and producing offspring, ensuring future generations. Like with humans, it does not matter if an animal is gay or straight; as long as they are happy, being true to themselves, they should be free to have sex or love whomever they wish.


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Animal Kingdom

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Atilla is passionate about writing and has spent his career writing technical documentation within large corporations. It was a career break in 2016, that gave him the opportunity to create his first fictional book, Cypriana. A well-travelled individual, visiting over 50 countries, has provided him with opportunities to not only have a wealth of experiences, but to also observe a broad range of characters, and personalities

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